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This is an extract from an article originally published in The Guardian (Gordon Darroch, 12.07.2017).
Crosswalk & CrossCycle : Tilburg pilots apps to encourage pedestrians and cyclers
Since April, Rommen [an elderly citizen of Tilburg] has been able to cross the road without dodging cars – with the help of his smartphone. He is one of 10 people in the Dutch city of Tilburg trialling the Crosswalk, an app that gives pedestrians with restricted mobility extra crossing time.
A sensor in the lights constantly scans the pavement on either side of the junction, and if it “sees” Rommen waiting when the button is pressed it adjusts the green-light time. The app comes pre-installed with one of four time settings, depending on the user’s level of mobility, to minimise delays to other traffic.
Dynniq, the Dutch company that develops intelligent traffic systems and is helping the city council with the trial, explains the app works in combination with GPS and the software that operates the traffic lights, so there is no need to install extra devices.
The company is also developing a spin-off for cyclists, the CrossCycle, which will sense when bikes are approaching a junction and change the lights sooner. Another version detects visually impaired pedestrians and activates the ticking sounds that tell them whether the light is red or green.
The pilot project is part of a 25-year plan to make Tilburg’s road network more pedestrian and cycle-friendly. “We want to do more with smart mobility and use technology rather than just putting down more asphalt,” says Mark Clijsen, urban planning specialist at the city council (https://www.tilburg.nl/).
Tilburg’s long-term mobility strategy, which runs up to 2040, aims to redress the balance in traffic and encourage people to walk or cycle. “For a long time pedestrians have been the neglected kids in traffic who get relatively little time on green,” says Clijsen. “What we want is to give the pedestrians more priority so the cars will have to cross from one side of the city centre to the other. It’s about thinking differently.”
The pilot is due to be assessed in the autumn, and if successful, Clijsen estimates that the traffic lights could be converted at a rate of around one every two weeks. There are still teething problems to iron out: the crossing Rommen uses is right next to a 16-storey block of flats, which makes it hard to pick up a GPS signal.
Tech for elders
“In Tilburg, one of the main challenges in developing the Crosswalk app was finding people to test it”, says Clijsen. Most potential users are elderly and often wary of relying on unfamiliar technology.
“We had to approach them one-on-one and show them how the app worked on their phones. Once we did that they were keen to get involved, but the barrier was very high. We held a presentation and put an advert in a local newspaper with a circulation of 2,000 and 10 people came forward.”
The press release can be downloaded here.
The city of Tilburg is the 52nd European city, and the 5th Dutch city, to sign the Green Digital Charter, a EUROCITIES initiative promoting progress in tackling climate change through the innovative use of digital technologies in cities. The municipality of Tilburg is committed to carrying out five pilot projects based on information and communications technology (ICT) and aligned with the Charter’s themes over the next five years. The aim of these and other actions is to reduce the direct carbon footprint of the ICT sector by 30% over the next ten years.
Deputy mayor Berend de Vries signed the GDC on 17 March 2017 at the occasion of EUROCITIES’ Environment Forum spring meeting in Antwerp, on the same day of a political debate gathering eight deputy mayors on “Localising the energy transition”. The forum meeting gathered 145 participants from 57 cities to debate the recently launched EU ‘clean energy for all Europeans’ package and energy transition in cities.
One example is the involvement of Tilburg in the Open Data – Smart Neighbourhoods (ODSN) project commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment to implement the FP7-funded IREEN roadmap in Dutch cities. Along with four other Dutch municipalities, Tilburg works on advancing its open data strategy and on adopting novel digital infrastructures to facilitate the implementation of local climate policy.
“There is an interesting dilemma: With increasing ICT applications, we can create flexibility, avoid mobility and thus reduce CO2. On the other hand, ICT is growing to be a large user of energy.
The city of Tilburg will support the network of 52 signatories of the Green Digital Charter in looking for ICT-solutions which reduce the carbon footprint”
Deputy mayor Berend de Vries
Tilburg is an active member of EUROCITIES’ Environment Forum, in particular the working-group on ‘air quality, climate change and energy efficiency’. Signing the Green Digital Charter testifies of the city’s commitment to implement the Europe 2020 Energy strategy, especially in terms of energy efficiency.
Tilburg is one of the municipalities of BrabantStad, one of the six Dutch cities being full members of the EUROCITIES network. The purpose of EUROCITIES is to improve the quality of life of the residents of its member cities by facilitating cooperation and networking, encouraging knowledge sharing, and jointly influencing the EU’s relevant policies and practices.